Lowe's launches AR-enabled app for shoppers using Lenovo's new Phab 2 Pro

Image: Jonathan Babin/Flickr

Lowe’s isn’t just selling Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro; it’s also using the gadget as an augmented reality sales tool for shoppers.

Lenovo’s new phone is the first handset to support Google’s Tango, an augmented reality technology that was introduced in February 2014. The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, which sells for $500, includes four cameras, including a 3D-sensing camera as well as sensors that work in conjunction with Tango.

Lowe’s is hoping to leverage the device with the launch of a new app enabling users to “visualize home furnishings, fixtures and accents in their living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms,” according to a press release. Customers can measure and capture room dimensions and other measurements with what Lowe’s called “the world’s most powerful digital tape measure,” then select items from Lowe’s virtual library to see how it would look in their homes.

A shopper could place a virtual sofa in the living room to see if it matches existing colors and schemes with Lowe’s Vision app, for instance, or could determine whether a new oven would fit into a space in the kitchen.

“Lowe’s Vision and Tango bring our customers one step closer toward eliminating the challenge of visualizing a completed home improvement project,” said Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs. “Tango transforms the smartphone into a digital power tool that helps customers measure and style spaces in their home with confidence.”

The retailer is also selling the handset from its online store.

Google is clearly betting heavily that users will find augmented reality compelling in a wide variety of use cases, from gaming to social apps to various applications in the enterprise. The company has been actively encouraging developers to build Tango-enabled apps, and Lowe’s Vision is one of roughly three dozen apps already supporting the platform.

Lowe’s isn’t likely to see tremendous use of its new AR-enabled app out of the gate: While the price point of the Phab 2 Pro is attractive compared to high-end phones, most consumers are likely to find its size impractical, and one reviewer said the user experience is still a bit “rough around the edges.”

But the Phab 2 Pro is only the first phone to offer Tango, and others will surely follow next year as Google’s AR platform picks up steam. The home improvement chain could be an early leader among retailers looking to leverage AR to sell physical goods.